earthappleSometimes when I’m out, or at the gym, I secretly enjoy overhearing conversations about what people are eating (or not eating). Anyone who knows me knows that I love food, enjoy eating, and indulge in rich or fried food or desserts from time to time, while also preparing veggies and snacking on fruit.

But so many people seem to create rigid rules for themselves about eating and food choices. It’s wonderful to have a choice, and I guess “food rules’ have replaced “diets” for some, but in my world, eating is part of the enjoyment of each day, and it is also purposeful – to sustain the energy you need to function at your best and be productive.  In some cases what you eat is not always as important as how you eat; but a healthy diet is good medicine for a healthy body – enter the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

The New Rules (well, not so much rules as they are guidelines)

The USDA just released their report for the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs). Every five years these guidelines are reviewed, taking into account evidence-based data and new research about diet and epidemiology. There is always some argument or disagreement about them, but overall, in my opinion, they have always served as a good framework to provide balanced, disease-prevention advice about what to eat. And a lot of work and thought, from a panel of experts, goes into them.

The report that is now available is still open to written public comment beginning sometime in March, and through April 8, 2015.

What I am pleased to see in this executive report, is a focus on so much more than simply a list of food rules. They’ve addressed other behavioral, social and cultural factors that impact how you eat, and this recognition is long overdue. Here are a few new aspects of this new release that’s caught my eye thus far:

  • At the core of better eating, there is a need for behavior change. While past guidelines summed up what you should eat more of or less of, this addition recognizes that without purposeful behavior change, no dietary therapy will have a positive impact. Recognizing the way Americans live (for instance 33% of meals are eaten away from home) is key to helping people develop new strategies for healthier choices.

“Individual behavior change lies at the inner core of the social-ecological model that forms the basis of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for American Advisory Committee (DGAC) conceptual model”

  • The roles that sedentary lifestyles, poor sleep habits, food security, family meals, and cultural backgrounds, play in how you make your food choices every day, is addressed. The 2015 guidelines recognize that your environment affects your choices, and the fact that very few Americans have been able to meet previous guidelines.

“Improving dietary and lifestyle patterns and reducing diet-related chronic diseases, including obesity, will require actions at the individual behavioral and population and environmental levels. Behavioral strategies are needed to motivate and enhance the capacity of the individual to adopt and improve their lifestyle behaviors. Specific behavioral efforts related to eating and food and beverage choices include improving knowledge, attitudes, motivations, and food and cooking skills. Environmental change also is important because the environmental context and conditions affect what and how much people eat and what food choices are available.”

  • Given the growing interest in a sustainable food supply, the 2015 DGAs are examining this important issue. Their definition:

“Sustainable diets are a pattern of eating that promotes health and well-being and provides food security for the present population while sustaining human and natural resources for future generations.”

 More to Come

One thing is for sure: you have to keep trying to eat more vegetables, drink more water, exercise, reduce your sodium intake, reduce saturated fat and added sugars. There’s a lot more to it, and I’ll be reviewing them and following the final outcome over the next few months, so stay tuned.